Archive | May 2016

Alicia Keys song ‘Hallelujah’ brings up question of sin


Photo: SNL

A couple weeks ago, Alicia Keys performed her new song “Hallelujah” on SNL. The chorus catches my attention.

Hallelujah, hallelujah, let me in
I’ve been praying but I’m paying for my sins
Won’t you give me a sign if I lose my mind?
Woah, hallelujah, let me in

I don’t know the background story of the song or her intentions, but here’s what I get from it: Our actions have consequences, and sometimes that can make us feel far from God.

Think of it this way: If you break a friend’s trust, will God forgive you? If you steal money from your employer or set someone’s house ablaze, can He forgive you then? Or what if you rear end someone going 60 in a 35? Will He extend His mercy?

Absolutely. If you’re genuine in asking His forgiveness (1 John 1:9). But does that mean you won’t experience side effects? Unlikely. It’s quite possible you’ll face a fine, get fired, ruin relationships or do time behind bars.

The Bible is full of stories about people who believed in God, asked His forgiveness for their sins and looked forward to eternal life in heaven, but who still faced punishment for their sins.

You might think of the story of King David who, after committing adultery with Bathsheba and indirectly killing her husband, mourned the death of the child he had with her. He also lost his own wives and faced public disgrace (2 Samuel 12:7-20).

There was also Samson in the book of Judges. God gave him great strength to deliver Israel from the Philistines, yet Samson wasted much of his potential and ended up giving away the secret of his strength to the woman he loved, Delilah. Because of that, his strength was taken away. The Philistines gouged out his eyes and bound him, and it was only at his lowest point that Samson recognized his need for God. In the end, he did begin to deliver Israel from the Philistines but had to give up his life to do it.

Sin is falling short of God’s perfect standard, going against His best for us. It’s a direct offense to a holy God, so we should confess it. We can also be confident we’re forgiven (Isaiah 1:18; 43:25). But that doesn’t remove the consequences. As Galatians 6:7 says, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”

Facing the music doesn’t mean God is far from us, though. It’s God’s way of correcting us and trying to get us to turn back to Him. His discipline shows His love for us because He doesn’t want us to keep making the same mistakes and not learn from them. It’s like a parent training and guiding a child. It’s also motivation to steer clear of sin to the best of our ability. We might even find our faith increases when we rely on God to get us through whatever consequences we’re facing.

Are you in the consequence phase? Remember God is closer than you may think.


All About That Waist: Is Meghan Trainor’s Video Flub a Big Deal?


“I want my waist back.”

That’s what Meghan Trainor said earlier this week when she discovered her waistline had been altered in her newest music video, “Me Too.” The edits made her look slimmer, and Trainor wasn’t a fan.

“Dude, look at how bomb I look,” she said afterwards about her actual body. “Why would they ever be like, ‘Let’s break her ribs!’ It’s insulting. It’s rude.” The unedited video has since been released.

Trainor is the most recent celebrity in a long list of both men and women who have been criticized for being either too fat or too thin, or who have spoken out against images of themselves that have clearly been altered—whether it’s their complexion, thighs, stomach, chest, wrinkles or hair.

Back in 2014, actor Val Kilmer wrote on his Facebook page that for years people called him too fat, but once he lost weight for a new role, tabloids were calling him too thin. As Kilmer put it, you “can’t win.” Actresses like Mindy Kaling and America Ferrera have shared similar frustrations with society’s view of body image.

What I’d like to know is: Who decides what’s attractive anyway? And where’s the middle ground between too big and too small? What is this elusive, ideal image that everyone should supposedly look like?

We’re obviously not all built the same way or meant to have uniform features, yet we see it over and over—the culture at large trying to fit a unique person into an unrealistic, standardized mold.

Just a few months ago, I wrote a blog about the ongoing battle of wanting to look different, of comparing myself to others and being self-conscious about my flaws. Or what I see as flaws at least. But as I wrote back then, that’s a dangerous trail to go down. It’s impossible to be someone else and silly to try.

And yet, in spite of all that …

I have to wonder if this week’s music video hiccup is really that big of a deal. Does the average person really care about a pop star’s waist size? How much weight does it carry (no pun intended) in our everyday lives? Would we have noticed Trainor’s fictional itty bitty middle if she hadn’t called attention to it?

Maybe we’re so used to celebrities having seemingly unattainable figures that we’re starting to shrug it off. Or maybe we’re expecting everything to be so airbrushed these days that we assume a bit of fantasy along with reality.

What do you think? Was the “All About That Bass” singer’s tiny waist a big deal, or not?

7 reasons to celebrate moms

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Everyone has a mom, and I’m not just talking about the one who brought you into this world. Maybe it’s the woman who filled in for your mom when yours wasn’t around or the woman who took you in after yours passed on. Maybe it’s a stepmom, a foster mom or a neighbor who might as well be your mom.

Whatever “mother” means to you, here are 7 reasons—and 7 verses—you might use to celebrate her this weekend:

1. Her endless embarrassment keeps you humble. For years, my mom had an ugly senior photo of me hanging in the hall. And she still refuses to burn the one of me in braces, bushy eyebrows and an over-sized fleece pullover. Maybe that’s how this became one of my favorite verses:

“Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment. …” —Romans 12:3

2. She’s your biggest fan. When no one else seems interested in reading my newspaper articles or blog posts, Mom does. And if I see 18 notifications pop up after I put pictures on Facebook? Seventeen will be likes from Mom.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” —1 Thessalonians 5:11

3. She sets the tone for your faith. I got in trouble for “sassing” a lot as a kid. Once, in elementary school, my mom’s remedy was making me write a whole page of Bible verses about honoring your parents. I sat in the living room with our enormous white coffee table Bible open—the kind with gold-rimmed pages and a silky maroon bookmark—picking my brain for where to find such a thing. I wrote in 30-point font and diagonal across the page to fill up space. Twenty years later, it can be hard to find empty space in my Bible’s margins.

“Teach [My words] to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” —Deuteronomy 11:19

4. She teaches you how to love. Do you have guests? Serve them. Did so-and-so make you angry? Vent a little, then give them the benefit of the doubt. Is someone grieving? Time to make a chicken casserole.

“Value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” —Philippians 2:3-4

5. She makes you eat breakfast and other important things. The bus stop used to be right in front of my house. I remember one morning when the stop sign was already out, the flashing lights going, and Mom would not let me out the door ’til I had a bite of toast. I still can’t go without breakfast, and now I’m told it’s the most important meal of the day. … I can also vouch for the importance of good posture and wearing your hood when it’s cold—both things Mom had to force me to do.

“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” —Proverbs 22:6

6. She prays for you. Even when you don’t know it. And no one wants to know where you’d be if she hadn’t.

“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” —James 5:16

7. She reminds you it’s not the end of the world. “Well …” Then a pause. “It’ll be OK.” I really can’t tell you how many times my mom has told me that. And maybe, if it’s really bad, I’ll get an additional “Bless your heart.” Whether I’m feeling frustrated, glum, underappreciated or hopeless, Mom reminds me not to give up. That the world won’t stop spinning. To keep on keepin’ on and eventually things will get better. Or at least I’ll accept them as is.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” —Galatians 6:9

Got any other reasons to celebrate moms? Add them below!

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Ziplining in Asheville for her 50th birthday

Don’t get the wrong impression: A candid convo for the culturally self-conscious

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A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about my seven-day stint wearing glasses and how I’m less self-conscious when people are out of focus. If I can’t see them, it’s like they aren’t there, and if they aren’t there, I can’t care what they may be thinking about me.

But there’s another kind of self-conscious that goes deeper and has more to do with how people see you in a cultural sense.

Example: I’d say I drive a nice car. If I go to the ritzy mall in town, I feel like I’m one of the regulars, but if I drive through a low-income neighborhood, I feel like I stick out. I imagine someone on the street thinking, “There goes a spoiled, rich white girl with daddy’s money.” Even though “white girl” is the only accurate bit.

As a Christian, I’m also aware of how people view my faith. If they see me wear a cross necklace, do they assume I need a crutch of faith to lean on? Does my general good mood give the illusion that Christians are always happy and carefree? Did that hypocritical statement falsely represent Who I follow?

Or what about the way people see me when I’m thumbing away on my iPhone? I could be typing out a grocery list, sending an encouraging text, responding to a work email or reading a daily devotion, but maybe all people see is another self-absorbed American with her face in her phone.

Where would your mind go in these situations?

For me, part of being self-conscious is wondering if people are jumping to conclusions about you. I doubt anyone likes that feeling, but it takes effort to afford others the same respect.

Just a couple weeks ago, as Pete and I walked the dogs, we saw three young guys walking down the street together. My first thought was that they were probably up to no good. They looked to be different races, so it wasn’t a race thing; it was more of a slow-paced walk, saggy pants, kept-looking-back thing.

But … maybe I’m wrong.

It was great weather, so maybe they were out for a stroll. Maybe they were chatting about something serious going on in their lives or waiting for a parent to pick them up. Maybe one of the guys was even self-conscious about what his neighbors were thinking. Who knows?

I do know that heightened self-awareness tends to happen around people who aren’t like you, which is a shame since that often keeps us from addressing snap judgments and insecurities between cultures. Perhaps if we had those conversations, we’d be less judgy and more at ease.

So how about you? What situations make you the most culturally self-conscious?